The prologue and chapter 1 of The Lunar Effect:
I sat perched on top of the tall, stone building. The frigid night air swirled around me and pierced my exposed skin with a cold bite. Ghastly stone gargoyles hovered on either side of me, scowling out into the night. I ignored them and continued to peer down at the street, scanning for my target.
I really don’t know what possessed me to climb up here anyway; I supposed it was because this was the tallest apartment complex in Denver—an ostentatious tower, really. And with my eyesight, it wasn’t as if I needed binoculars to see down that far, but it did give me a spectacular view. The building across the street was pretty much a mirror image of this one: a ludicrously high-risen, yuppie-infested stone monstrosity, with large, boring square windows set perfectly symmetrically apart and one revolving door on the ground level, which was shrouded in an outlandish green awning. It even had a doorman. I briefly wondered how much money that poor guy made to stand there all day, having to be courteous and helpful to the rude snobs who inhabited the cold building.
Tiny snow flurries began to float and twirl in the frosty air around me, and I knew my window of opportunity was about to slam shut if I didn’t shit or get off the pot. I had one shot at staking this guy tonight, and I was determined as hell to get him. I thought about the stack of bills awaiting me if I scored my prize, and a smile twisted up on my lips.
Rocking back on the heels of my black boots, I came to rest, sitting as still as the gargoyles who were keeping me company. He should be coming out of that apartment building at any minute, according to my source.
Ah! There he was, Johnny the vampire, the little bastard. He exited the pretentious building and pulled his ridiculously stereotypical black trench coat up around him, looked both ways on the icy sidewalk, and began to walk south. He wrapped his arms around himself, acting like the cold was actually a bother to him.
His pale face was illuminated by the almost full moon, causing his skin to look sickly—almost green—and his jet-black hair to look blue. As he walked with his head down, I knew this was my only chance. I glanced one last time at the nearly deserted street, then up at the moon, pulled in a deep breath of cold air, and leapt off the building with a satisfying grin.
Oh yes, tonight was not his night. It was mine.
My name is Ayla St. John, and I’m a vampire hunter. I’m also a werewolf, but that probably isn’t very surprising. We are, after all, natural-born enemies.
Five years ago
I hate it when I wake up with mud in my bed.
It wasn’t as if I asked for this curse. I couldn’t control the shifts. My parents apparently, had been clueless that we had a werewolf curse on our family.
Thanks, Mom and Dad!
So every full moon since I’d turned seventeen, I would wake up on the third day, feeling hungover and unaware of what I had just done—what I’d just been through. This especially sucked because I had, apparently, been the last of my siblings to find out about it. By surprise, mind you. Nobody should have to go through what I’d been through. The first shift had been pure hell on earth.
It was the weekend after my seventeenth birthday. I had been out with my girlfriends just after the homecoming football game. After an epic win by our school, we, the cheerleaders, had gone to meet the team at a local restaurant-bar. Of course we couldn’t drink, but it didn’t stop us from thinking we were mature adults.
I had been hyped up and twitchy all night. I couldn’t think of any other way to describe it. I was usually full of energy anyway… hello, I was a teen… but on that day, I couldn’t sit or stand still, bouncing from foot to foot while standing, and pounding my hand against my thigh as I sat. Thankfully, the football game had helped me get some of that out of my system. After three years in cheer, I had finally made head cheerleader my senior year at my high school in the small Denver suburb.
While my fellow cheerleaders shivered in the cold and plastered fake smiles on their faces, I had a genuine smile on mine. I wasn’t cold; I rarely got cold. In fact, I was a bit sweaty that night. Our high school had creamed the team from the next town over and I was burning up from all the jumps, cartwheels, and screams I’d expended that night. The crowd seemed to be in a frenzy, and it just amped us all up more. I looked into the sky to see there was a full moon, and smiled. I bet that was why the energy was so high. I read somewhere that the full moon made people crazy; made them do irrational things. I was on a serious high myself, and when we’d all met at the restaurant, I had only one thought on my mind: Ryder Robinson.
The guy was—of course—on the football team. He was not the quarterback. Come on, that would be way too stereotypical, right? Besides, the quarterback was a guy named Benson. No, Ryder was a fullback. I knew virtually nothing about football, even though I should have, since I was head cheerleader, but I did know Ryder’s position on his team. Not that I knew exactly what a fullback was. I promised myself I’d Google it later.
Myself, Kiera, Jen, and Gemma all piled into my little Honda and headed toward Gino’s Pizza Bar. We were the first to arrive and we informed the hostess we were going to have a big party—well, over ten.
We sat in the corner of the restaurant, giggling, until the rest of our party arrived.
My breath had caught in my throat as I saw Ryder arrive with the rest of the group. He sensed my gaze on him, and smiled. His eyes were blue; an aquamarine color that rivaled the Caribbean Sea on a clear day. I smiled back, then slid some of my light-colored hair behind my ear.
I licked my lips and looked at my entourage of girlfriends. Gemma nudged me with her bony elbow and said, “Ryder’s here.”
I rolled my eyes. “Thanks, Captain Obvious. I can see that.”
She chewed her lip and replied, “Uh huh. He’s totally staring at you.”
Butterflies invaded my stomach and I sucked in a breath. “He’s probably just looking for his friends.”
Gemma snorted and waved a hand around. “No, he’s still staring in our direction.”
I pulled my gaze away from Gemma’s and risked a glance at Ryder. He gave me a small smile. The kind I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t already memorized his face and lips from hours of staring at him in class. It was a small tug at the corner of his mouth—just one corner. That crooked grin that, at the very first sight of it, had caused me to have an instant crush on him.
Seeming to notice that our table had some empty spots, he and three other players came over and sat down. My stomach did a little flip when Ryder sat directly across from me. I tried so hard not to stare at him like I usually did in the math class we had together, but it was so hard. He was just so beautiful. Dark, inky black hair, those full lips, and the eyes that captured me every time our eyes locked.
How come he wasn’t my boyfriend yet?
The server came to take our order, and deciding on a few large cheese and pepperoni pizzas, we let him go fill the order then continued our playful banter. Gemma wanted to chat me up, as she seemed to never quit talking, but I just wanted to talk to Ryder.
“That pass, though,” Benson Gibbs said, coming up to our table and fist-bumping Ryder as he sat down next to him. Of course Benson, the cocky ass that he was, had to turn the chair backwards to sit on it, a toothpick hanging out of the side of his mouth.
“Hi, Benson,” I said, trying to be polite.
My parents had instilled in me to be courteous to others. To say hello, especially to adults, when they had said hello first. High school had taught me that teenagers are assholes and usually nobody said hello. But I wasn’t going to lose my manners.
Gemma giggled from somewhere beside me, and I ignored her because I was, again, staring at Ryder.
“Hi,” I finally said to him with a nervous smile.
“Hello, Ayla,” he replied with that panty-melting crooked grin of his.
So hot that he remembered my name. We have three classes together, but still, I was surprised he even knew it.
Shockingly, the rest of the night went amazingly well. The pizza and soda was delicious, and we’d all talked casually, even though it had been loud in there.
As the restaurant was hinting that it was trying to close, we all got up, the adults paid the tab, and we went outside. The cool Colorado air felt wonderful after being inside the hot pizza joint.
“Do you need a ride home?” Ryder asked me all confident, but I definitely detected a note of nervousness in his tone.
The offer surprised me. “Uh, no, I have a car.” Oh, my God, I should have just said yes and given Gemma my car keys.
Speaking of, I looked over to see Gemma running a long, pink fingernail down the front of Benson’s shirt, and he was smiling down at her like he was about to conquer Mt. Everest. And maybe he was going to, since he was probably going to be conquering a couple of Gemma’s mountains later, if I knew her.
Returning my gaze to Ryder, I lied and said, “I don’t have to be home anytime soon, though.”
My curfew was midnight since I was seventeen and still in high school, but curfews be damned. I wanted to see how far I could push the limits with Ryder.
Things progressed faster than I thought they would. We were parked on a hill overlooking the entire city of Denver in Ryder’s Mustang. I didn’t come up for air long enough to appreciate the beauty of the vast city sprawled out before me, the twinkling lights of the buildings glowing under a clear, star-shot sky.
“You’re such a good kisser,” Ryder said to me between breaths, his warm hand on the thigh of my jeans as I straddled him in the driver’s seat. He’d had to put the seat all the way back to accommodate us both.
“So are you,” I replied, breathless and my stomach churning with excitement and nerves. I had only kissed one other guy before, so I was beaming at the compliment.
But as I stared into his eyes, my smile fell as I thought I saw a flash of yellow in his aqua-colored irises. His eyes went big at the same time, and in unison we said, “Your eyes…”
“What about my eyes? Yours looked—”
“Oh, my God,” he whispered.
“What?” I asked, feeling panicked, and now scared.
“It’s coming, Ayla, are you ready?” he whispered.
Confused, my eyebrows dipped together. “What are you talking about?”
He shrugged a shoulder and leaned in, kissing me hard and fast, and I decided to ignore his strange comment and kiss him back. The windows of the car were completely fogged up, and I felt like my body was on fire.
“You’re close, baby,” he said, breaking the kiss and panting. “Maybe we should get out of the car,” Ryder said.
“Close to what?” I breathed. I had no idea what he was talking about. I thought maybe it was a sexual reference, but at seventeen, I was still a virgin and, aside from a few make-out sessions, was pretty oblivious to sexual innuendos.
Ryder opened the car door, and as I relished the cool night air on my clammy skin, he pulled me out of the car.
“You must be a late bloomer,” he said, chuckling and looking down at me with amusement in his eyes. It was then I realized he had removed his letterman’s jacket and was unbuttoning his jeans.
My eyes widened. “Um, what are you doing?” I asked, backing away.
“This is gonna hurt, unfortunately,” he said, lifting his polo shirt off over his head until he stood there in nothing but boxers and seriously muscled abs and thighs.
He extended a hand toward me, reaching for my chest area, but I took a step back.
“Ryder, what… what are you doing?” I asked again.
“If you value those clothes, you’ll strip out of them before they are torn off of you.”
I was sweating now, and it felt like the light from the full moon was beating down on my head like a thousand suns. I longed to take my coat off, but was frightened at Ryder’s odd behavior.
“I don’t understand,” I said shakily. “Please leave me alone. Just take me home. Please.”
His eyes went wide and looked wild, the teal irises glowing yellow in a flash, then back to their natural color. He began to twitch and shake and I thought maybe he was having some sort of fit or seizure. Then he fell to the ground, all four limbs in the mud and dirt as his head dipped between his shoulders. He sounded like he was whimpering and growling.
“Oh, my God! What’s wrong with you? Do you want me to call an ambulance?” I pulled my cell from the pocket of my jacket, but suddenly the phone hit the dirt at my feet as it fell from my hands.
Excruciating pain like I’d never known radiated throughout my whole body. It felt as though burning hot acid was being poured through every vein and artery in my body. I screamed out in agony, and then dropped to my knees.
“Help! Help me!” I sobbed, tearing my clothes from my body with fingers that were beginning to grow long, hard nails where before I’d only had short, manicured ones. I was hot, burning up. I had to strip.
I now lay on the cold, muddy ground, half-naked and feeling like I was on fire from the inside out. Then I heard the first bone crack. Then the next, then the next. My bones were breaking one by one, and I could only scream in agony so much before my voice gave out. I felt like I was going to faint from the pain.
“Don’t…” Ryder said, his voice sounding weird and gruff as he panted in short breaths, “fight it.”
My weary stare moved to where Ryder lay on the ground, and I screamed again. His body was covered in a dark-brown layer of hair, and as he opened his mouth to speak—or maybe howl—I could see his teeth were long and razor-sharp.
More cracking sounds exploded in my ears as I yelled in pain, my clothes now completely torn to shreds from my body as I clawed at my own skin, wishing I could rip it off.
Instead, as I looked down, I saw long, blonde hair sprouting from every inch of my body.
I screamed again as more bones broke, but the instant they broke, the pain in them seemed to stop, until another bone cracked and repositioned itself. It wasn’t until the femur bones broke—the biggest bones in the body—when I fell to the ground on my back, howling in an agony so unimaginable, I couldn’t put it into words, even if I wanted to.
But even those bones seemed to stop hurting quickly. Once the pain and the fever subsided, I opened my eyes to see a world comprised completely of black and white with a slight red hue around the edges. To contrast the void of color, I could see everything with distinct, razor-sharp clarity.
I opened my mouth to call out for Ryder, but it came out as nothing but a howl. I shook my head, confused. Twisting my head around, I looked behind me and, in black and white, saw light-colored fur covering my body, which was now that of an animal. A long, bushy tail swished back and forth, and I thought, I must be dreaming. How am I an animal?
“Ryder?” I said, but it was only inside my head.
“I’m here, Ayla,” came his response, but I also only heard it inside my head.
Lifting my furry face up, I saw a large, dark-colored wolf with yellow eyes standing before me. Behind him were many other wolves, but for some reason, I was not afraid. They all stood still, just their tails flicking to and fro. They stared at me expectantly.
“You’re a beautiful wolf, Ayla. So breathtaking,” Ryder’s voice said again inside my head.
“I don’t understand,” I said, feeling on the verge of crying. “How can I be a wolf? I am just a girl. Am I dreaming?” I asked.
“No, baby, just follow us. We will show you what we do during a full moon.”
The wolf who was Ryder came up close to my face and licked my nose. It felt warm and comforting, so I snuggled my snout against his cheek.
“Let’s go,” he said gently.
I did as I was told, because really, what other choice did I have? I followed behind Ryder as the pack of wolves went over the brow of the hill and down a slope, which emptied into a large forest, thick with lush green pine trees.
That was the only thing I remembered. The next morning I woke in the warmth of my own bed, but I was naked and covered in mud, pine needles… and blood.
So much blood.
The Lunar Effect can be ordered here —-> https://books2read.com/the-lunar-effect/